Chocolate week is in full swing and the quality of real chocolate now available in the UK - like the hilarious Boris Johnson - is really something to marvel at
When it comes to real chocolate my adopted home has advanced leaps and bounds since I first arrived ten years ago. As evinced by the plethora of chocolate brands at last weekend's Chocolate Unwrapped event and a dizzying array of chocolate tastings and events taking place across Blighty this week, there is much to rejoice about if you're a committed theobromine addict. With the likes of Paul A Young and Chantal Coady of Rococo flying the flag for real chocolate this country is finally on the right track chocolate-wise, even if the postal system is a complete shambles. Perfidious old Albion still has some way to go with real bread too but that's another blog post in the offing
Musing on chocolate recently I found myself nostalgic for Norway. This often happens when I hear Peer Gynt, eat gravad laks or reminisce about skiing - that is until I remember my propensity to ski into trees
Visits in the past week to the Scandinavian Kitchen and Scandi restaurant Madsen have ostensibly triggered my most recent bliss point of 'Weegie nostalgia. I picked up Scandi chocolate confection Kvikk Lunsj and Daim from the good people of Great Titchfield Street, and tried to excavate memories of skiing that did not result in spectacular crashes with the woods and wildlife of Oslo
For the uninitiated, Kvikk-Lunsj is akin to a Kit-Kat but addictive as crack. The Kvikk-lunsj fan page on facebook boasted 15,907 fans when I last checked, a measure of how damn good this biscuity milk chocolate is. 'Weegies take with us a bar or three whenever we go on long hikes through forests and mountains, and on wholesome ski trips in winter. We don't really get fat because we're outdoors so much. Needless to say the clever marketing department of Norwegian chocolate brand Freia play on our love of outdoor frolics and romanticize kvikk-lunsj to the Nth degree - as you can see in the first photo above and if you click on that last link above. I'm a sucker for buying into it of course, but this chocolate so good who cares if I'm being duped
So imagine my total horror when I arrived in October 1999 to discover most chocolate here was crap. It was like something out of Hogarth. Norway's pulchritudinous populace may have prejudiced me somewhat, but I was literally surrounded by pasty, spotty, gin-soaked urchins who thought Cadbury's dairy milk constituted real 'chocolate' and booze was more important than food. It was a culture shock one step too far and I confess the first taste of Dairy Milk one of my mates shared still haunts me. Suitcases of kvikk-lunsj and other Freia confection were ferried over and distributed to my friends as a humanitarian act, rescuing them from purple brand addiction
Perhaps my British grandmother had convinced me everyone knew and understood food in this country. She cooked roast beef every Sunday so why wouldn't every other Brit do the same I assumed. Yorkshire pudding and bramley apple crumble were not part of my mates' repertoire I soon discovered, and when I bought organic milk and waxed lyrical on the joys of good butter this elicited some very quizzical looks from fellow students, not to mention when I subjected one poor soul to a rant on the evils of homogenized milk
Apparently Welsh rarebit at Fortnums was not considered integral to every eight-year old girl's visit to London and few of my peers really rated PG Wodehouse. Honestly, I felt like Alice peering through the looking glass - the Britain I had been shown by my beloved Nana was not quite what I imagined and being resolutely contrarian I refused to snap out of my sheltered little existence, digging my heels in further after some snot-nosed little neo-Marxist called me a "posh foreign snob"
And therein lies the rub. It's still hard today for even the most committed fairtrade, organic and sustainable food-supporting eater in this country to shake that subconscious fixation with class. Sometimes in those sunny and cool autumn days of October '99 I wondered whether Britain was still languishing in its Victorian past and if I wasn't just an insufferable brat for being so judgmental. Plus ca change!
Thankfully a delicious Scandi lunch at Madsen and a previous visit to meet owner Charlotte Kruse Madsen helped alleviate the worst of the nostalgia pangs I was experiencing earlier in the week. When Charlotte presented me with a fresh piece of kransekake, a classic Scandinavian dessert, I knew I had an excellent reason to visit South Ken, other than to see the dinosaurs and the new Darwin centre at the Natural History Museum
Scandinavian kransekake: a baked marzipan-rich biscuit
What do you think? Am I imagining things - does food trigger nostalgia or is it all nonsense? The best answer gets a couple of kvikk-lunsjes in the post. Remember, you must be over 18 and recognise the addictive qualities of said chocolate. After all 15,907 fans can't be wrong...
will winter 2009 be the year I cease to crash into trees? watch this space...